Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



Qualification may not mean quality

We can see some of the qualities that should be a part of church leadership by taking a few moments to look at Epaphras. He appears very few times in the Scripture, yet there are many qualities that can be seen in these references. (Col. 1:3-8; 4:12,13; Philemon 23. Another reference that might give meaning to Epaphras is Acts 20:28.)

I would like to give a short introduction to this study to set the stage for the thoughts we need to have. Let's say that you want to buy a car. Let's say that you have enough money to buy any car that you want. Let's say that you are setting out to buy that car of your dreams. Let's say you are standing before the car salesman and you are about to tell him just what you want him to order. Let's do that for a moment and let ourselves be worldly for a moment. Yes, I'm telling you to be worldly for a moment. ONLY A MOMENT!

What kind of car is it? What color is it? The salesman has a list of all the possible options -- what are you going have him put on the car? What radio will you have? On one of the news magazines they showed cars with stereos in them that cost more than the car. What engine will you get? What color will you order?

Now that the dreaming is over let's think for a moment. If you had the money, if you had the desire, if you were committed to having this car, would you accept delivery of a Maroon Chevette? NO!

If you were to set down a list of qualifications and desires for your church leadership, would you settle for something less than you ordered?

You say no, but I believe that many churches today are accepting a standard that is much lower than they desire!! Either they are accepting less than they want, or else their desires are far from Biblical.

The Word gives a great number of QUALIFICATIONS for church leadership and we all hear of these from time to time taught from Timothy and Titus, however the word also sets forth some Godly men as examples of some of the QUALITIES that these men should have.

In this study I would like to explore some of these QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP with you. I would like to look for a few moments at Epaphras. NO IT IS NOT A SKIN RASH!

Epaphras was a man of God that the Holy Spirit moved Paul to include in the Biblical record only so very briefly. He is mentioned only three times - only five verses deal with Epaphras yet we can see within these few verses a real man of God.


Colossians is a book written by Paul during a stay in Rome under Roman guard. It was written about the same time as Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians. We want to look at the first few verses.

In the passage we see that Epaphras was a soul winner (vs. 5). The indications are that he had given these people the Gospel. He may have started the Church. Some think that he may have heard Paul when Paul was at Ephesus in Acts 19:10.

Not only was he a soul winner, but he was a teacher or discipler (vs. 5-7). We see here a pair of qualities which need to be used as a path to maturity for new believers.

Many of the evangelistic organizations today suffer in this area. They lead the person to Christ but never bother to teach them anything of the Christian life nor do they bother to lead or direct them to a sound church. In my own life, the man that led me to the Lord did not attempt to disciple me and as a result, I went into the Navy and became a typical sailor. I often have wondered how my life might have been different had I been taught some of the basics of the faith.

We see that he was also a faithful Minister (vs 7). One who held the body of believers as important - always there to help - to minister to needs - not far off or unapproachable.

He was a servant (vs. 7). This man was a servant of Christ. "A servant of Jesus Christ is one who has been bought with a price and is therefore owned by his Master, on whom he is completely dependent, to whom he owes undivided allegiance and to whom he ministers with gladness of heart, in newness of spirit, and in the enjoyment of perfect freedom, receiving from him a glorious reward." (William Hendriksen, "EXPOSITION OF COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON"; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964, P 191)

This man was a servant of Christ "ON OUR BEHALF" Some translations read "your" but the concept is the same. He served Christ to THEIR benefit. He wasn't in it for what he could get or be. We met a man in Oregon that was planting a church. He was making his living pumping gas. He worked at the gas station and worked with the church for eight years. The church was his life and all that he did was to further the church. He was in it so that he could benefit those he ministered to. In this case Epaphras was ministering to Paul in prison so he was benefiting Paul.

We have four qualities so far (soul winner,teacher/discipler, faithful minister and servant). You might ask, "what is the difference between qualifications and qualities?" Qualification has the idea that the person has the abilities that make him appropriate for the job at hand. Qualified is the idea, while quality has the idea of the type of person that is in view. What he is like with people, how he relates to problems, or the nature of the person. Good qualifications relate to the ability to come to a standard, but qualities relate to the quality of person that is under consideration. Let me give you a couple of examples. We had a maroon Chevette once. It had the qualifications to be a car but its quality was questionable. It had four wheels, a motor, a body, seats etc. but the dealer had it more in the first 90 days that we did. There is you see a difference. It qualified as a car, yet it was not a quality car. (To be fair to the Chevrolet Co., We put 180,000 miles on our Chevette before it was totalled by a big Caddy that suffered NO damage.)

Let me illustrate the distinction that I am making in another way. While in the service I was the only experienced electronic technician on the ship. Indeed the only tech. One day we received fourteen men just out of electronics school. Our ship was only allowed five or six men, so I decided that I would have it made with this many men under me. Not so! These men were qualified as technicians -- they had passed all the tests at school indeed some of them had very high grades in their classes. However, the quality of workmanship was very poor --- in fact within a month the ship was a total mess electronically. We went into the repair yards for a few weeks and it took me every spare moment to get all of the problems cleared up. QUALIFIED? YES - QUALITY? NO, NOT FOR MANY MONTHS!

Epaphras seems to have been boastful of his church (vs. 8 "also declared unto us your love in the Spirit"). He had been speaking to Paul of his church and its GOOD POINTS! We were in a small church in central Oregon a few years ago that we have spoken to many of our friends about. It was a church that had an over abundance of talented, excited, dedicated people. I could mention the fact they met in an upstairs, that it was to small, or the fact they didn't have a piano but I didn't. I always tried to emphasize the positive, for it was a very uplifting experience to have been in the church. The positive was what was on Epaphras' mind. Indeed, if you read the rest of the book you will find that the church had problems which Paul addressed. Epaphras was excited about his church. He was telling others of his church.

Our church people today need to get hold of this one! Dwell on the positive. Do you tell others of your church? Are you making declarations about the great people there, or do you dwell on the problems?

Let's turn now for a moment to Col. 4:12-13. We see that Epaphras was a local boy ("one of your number"). Why haven't we taken this idea to heart in our Churches today? When we need someone to work with the youth we so often look outside our own assembly. A Church in the midwest took one of their own as their youth man. Why not? They are used to the pastor, they fit right into the fellowship, and the kids know them already. They are already accepted in the community. You know their life, their doctrine, as well as their faults!

The New Testament Church operated for the most part on people from their own group. All Church leaders came from within, not from without. Not only for youth workers but why not for pastors or elders as your Church government dictates? Train the men of your Church so that when the pastor moves on you have a home grown replacement on line. Send him to college if you need to. Some would complain that when he is trained he might go someplace else - so what you've trained a man to serve God. Train another! You don't need to finance him totally, but help as you can.

One Church in Oregon that we've been to has laymen that are so trained by their pastor they can, and do go out to fill the pulpits of Churches without pastors. Their pastor is committed to training his people to do the work of the Lord as Ephesians 4 tells us to do!

Epaphras was committed to Christ (Bondslave - "servant of Christ"). He had placed himself at his Lord's disposal for his Lords use. When I think of servants of God that were sold out I always think of Stephen in Acts 6:24. He was a deacon, but he soon preached to the Jews and finally died at their hands in Chapter Seven. He was sold out to serve Christ.

Paul seems quite impressed with this man. Phil. 23 "Epaphras my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus"; Col. 1:7 "minister of Christ," "dear fellow servant"; Col. 4:12 "Servant of Christ."

I fear that commitment is a passing thing in our society and in our Churches. I have in recent months heard of several men turning down Churches because of financial deficiencies in the Churches pay package. Finances should be involved in deciding if God is calling you to a Church, but it should not be the deciding factor. Someone in chapel while I was at Frontier School of the Bible mentioned a man that was leaving his Church because he wasn't making enough. His salary was $48,000 a year.

Epaphras was thoughtful. He knew that Paul was writing to them so he ask him to greet them for him. This shows a certain amount of feeling toward the people. Epaphras must have liked the people and felt that he wanted to greet them. God is interested in men that are interested in their people - TRULY INTERESTED!!

He was a prayerful man. Paul didn't need to mention this in his letter, but he was impressed enough with Epaphras' prayers, to encourage the people on with the fact that someone was praying for them. One of the encouragements we've had over the years is knowing that so many are praying for us! We used to send out more than 200 letters to enlist the prayers of the saints when we were missionaries - we needed it!

Paul, to the best of my knowledge mentions no one else as a prayer. He was impressed! By the way can you imagine going to prayer in a prayer meeting with this man and Paul present?

Let's look at his prayer life for just a moment or two.

CONSISTENT: "always" - specific choice to do it on a regular basis. Luke 18:1 "Men ought always to pray and not to faint"!

SPECIFIC: "for you." I ran across something in a Theological Journal awhile back. "A story is told about an old pastor who every Saturday afternoon could be seen leaving his study and entering the Church building by the back door, and about sundown he would be seen going home. Someone's curiosity was aroused enough to follow one day and watch through a window. It was in the days when the family pew was an institution of the Church. The old pastor was seen to kneel at each pew and pray for every member of the family that was to occupy it on the Lord's day. WHAT A PRAYER LIST! He called each member by name as he poured out his heart to God for his flock. His was a ministry of power and his people reflected the grace of God on them. Blessed is that Church which has such a praying Shepherd." (from Bibliotheca Sacra; P 60; Jan-Mar 1979, Dallas Seminary) We need people committed to pray for the people they minister to!

I ran across a quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon that relates well at this point. "The minister who does not earnestly pray over his work must surely be a vain and conceited man. he acts as if he thought himself sufficient of himself and therefore need not appeal to God. Yet what a baseless pride to conceive that our preaching can ever be in itself so powerful that it can turn men from their sins and bring them to God without the working of the Holy Ghost."

I was at a Church in the northwest where the pastor was preaching on commitment and in his invitation he mentioned that he had prayed for each one in his congregation before the service.

I had spoken in a small town Church in the midwest and the pastor insisted on filling my gas tank. He filled the tank and we talked for awhile at the station. We said goodbye and he started walking toward his house. I told him I'd take him home. He said, "No, I'd rather walk." I insisted - he said, "No I'd rather walk - I know the people along the way home and I like to pray for them as I walk by their house. Some of them are lost and I want to pray for them."

That is the type of men we need in our pulpits today!

SINCERE: "striving" This word comes from the athletic arena - it is used of the athletes intense effort in reaching for the prize. It is used of the "agony" of Christ's prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44) just before his arrest.

I watched the iron man triathilon a few years ago and they showed a woman that was near the finish line. She couldn't control her legs and couldn't walk so she ended up on her hands and knees crawling across the finish line - that is agony! This term "strive" is the term from which we gain our English word "agonize." It was more than just a five minute quite time. He was agonizing over these people!

PURPOSEFUL: "that ye may stand" It has been said, that if the Church is ever going to be victorious it will have to learn to advance on it's knees. PRAYER IS NEEDED TODAY TO SAY THE LEAST!

We see that Epaphras had a concern. He was very concerned with their need of maturing.

He was sincere. Paul knew that this man was on the level -- he wasn't just putting on a front to impress the folks. Some Christians I meet today - Church leaders - are so caught up in their airs they don't listen to the answers you give to their questions. This is quite evident when you answer the same questions twice in your first conversation. I recently overheard a conversation between a leader and a not so regular attender. The leader would ask a question and in the middle of the answer the leader would be interrupted and then when he returned to listening to the man he would ask another question. The man had not finished his first answer. This went on for about four cycles and finally the man walked away. The leader was not at all interested in the man - only in pretending to be interested.

We had a missionary over for dinner. He would ask a question and as you paused between sentences of your answer he would ask another question on another topic. A couple of times I went back and finished an answer then answered the next question in the hope of his picking up on what he was doing. He didn't.

Some today feel a lull in the conversation is a mortal sin. Personally quiet is not all that bad at times indeed sometimes it is appropriate.

I recently heard of "Leather Man" in the eastern part of our country. He was a man of the past. He was a man that never talked to anyone. He wore a heavy leather outfit and would not take help from anyone. He would eat from time to time when people offered. He had no known past and lived in caves in the wilderness. He never was known to speak yet people, both children and adults would walk out to his camp and just sit with him by the hour. SILENCE IS GOLDEN AT TIMES!

In Alaska one of the Indian tribes enjoy just sitting around in a circle in silence. They enjoy one another without talking.

I sense also there is one more quality in this man. He was MISSIONS MINDED. He was on the forefront of missions. He was working with Paul and seemingly involved in Church planting.

I fear many today fail to see past the end of their own lives when they look at the harvest fields. Few today are directing and leading their Churches toward missions. Many are stunting their Churches growth and prosperity by stunting missions.

Missions is to be a vital part of all our lives. If you aren't praying for, and supporting missions then you aren't in the mainstream of God's program - you are on the outskirts and many Churches there are on the outskirts!

Epaphras was a man of many qualities! The book of Philemon (vs 23) tells us that he was a prisoner with Paul in Rome, so we can see that he was committed to his Lord - all the way.

As I review his qualities the two that stand out most are the qualities of prayer and concern for his people. He was concerned about the people in his Church as well as the people in nearby Churches. The other Churches mentioned are Laodicea and Hierapolis. These two cities and Colosse formed a triangle. They were only a few miles apart. (about 12) He had probably met these people - maybe had taught them indeed, may have started the Churches.

In Colossians 1:7 the term for deacon (minister) is used of Epaphras. He evidently was a deacon at his Church. History and tradition indicates that he went on to become an elder there at Colosse and later was martyred there.

I'm told that his name means "lovely" a shortened form of Epaphroditus meaning "handsome or charming." A fitting name for such a man of God.


So many Church leaders today are qualified yet I wonder how many of them are of this quality. This was a layman and he had these qualities! One of the first elder qualifications is "if a man desire the office." Many Church leaders are not there because they DESIRE the office.

We do not have prayer warriors in many of our pulpits today. We do not have concerned men in many of our pastorates today.

When I told my father that I was going to become a minister he said, "Well I guess there's good money in that." At the time I thought yes, in the liberal denominations but not in the fundamental circles. Today I feel that it is coming into fundamental circles. I fear that the ministry is becoming an occupation to many young men. Not a bond slaves life of service for his Lord with his Lord's people, but a job and career.

Peter gives a proper picture of an elder in I Pet. 5:1-4. You should read it sometime.

Epaphras had many qualities. Indeed these qualities should be aspired to by all believers, but they ought to be resident in all of our Church leadership! In the years to come I trust that you will look for men of prayer, men of concern, men of service, men of Christ, men who are desirous of being a shepherd.

Recently I saw an interview of a shepherd here in the western U.S. They ask him of his life and he described the small wagon that he lived in month after month and the danger that he faced to protect the sheep. He spoke of the long months of crying over the loneliness before he finally got used to it. They ask him why he was a shepherd. His reply was this, "The sheep needed to be cared for and I chose to be a shepherd."

We need men in our pulpits and our board rooms that have chosen to be shepherds -- men who desire to care for the sheep. May your future shepherds be so dedicated. May your future shepherds be so concerned.

Christ is pictured as a shepherd in the New Testament. May our shepherds be like our heavenly shepherd!

We must take our application one step further before we close. If you were to compare YOUR life to that of Epaphras how would YOU compare? Paul chose the term "SERVANT" for Epaphras, if Paul were writing about you today could he use the term "servant" of you?

Can you in your own mind say, "My life is a God-used life."? If you can't say "Yes" then you need to spend time getting to know your Master and seeing what He wants you to do.